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Coronavirus: Trump denies downplaying severity of virus




US President Donald Trump at ABC News' town hall event in Philadelphia. Photo: 15 September 2020Image copyright

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President Donald Trump said “we saved a lot of lives”

US President Donald Trump has denied that he downplayed the seriousness of Covid-19, despite admitting in a recorded interview having done that.

At a televised event with voters, Mr Trump said he had “up-played” it.

The claim contradicts what Mr Trump told journalist Bob Woodward earlier this year that he minimised the virus’s severity to avoid panic.

And Mr Trump repeated that a vaccine could be ready “within weeks” despite scepticism from US health experts.

No vaccine has yet completed clinical trials, leading some scientists to fear politics rather than health and safety is driving the push for a vaccine before the 3 November presidential elections.

Woodward, who broke the Watergate scandal in 1972 and is one of the nation’s most respected journalists, interviewed Mr Trump 18 times from December to July.

Mr Trump was quoted as telling him the virus was “deadly stuff” before the first US death was confirmed.

More than 195,000 people have died with Covid-19 in the US since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins university.

What did President Trump say?

At Tuesday’s town hall meeting held by ABC News in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Mr Trump was asked why would he “downplay a pandemic that is known to disproportionately harm low-income families and minority communities”.

Mr Trump responded: “Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many was, I up-played it, in terms of action.”

“My action was very strong,” he said, citing a ban imposed on people travelling from China and Europe earlier this year.

“We would have lost thousands of more people had I not put the b

Official feed of BBC News, The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, it is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees.

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Sri Lanka returns ‘hazardous waste’ to UK





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Sri Lanka says it is sending 21 containers of recycled waste back to the UK after they were found to contain hazardous material.

Customs officials said hospital waste, plastic and polythene was discovered in the majority of the 263 containers imported in 2017 by a private firm.

The shipment was meant to be made up of used mattresses, carpets and rugs.

Most of the containers have been stored in warehouses, with only a small amount of material having been re-exported.

Legal action was taken after the Sri Lanka authorities impounded the material in 2018.

Officials said the 21 containers had left Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Customs spokesman Sunil Jayaratne said the original importation breached international and EU rules and regulations on hazardous w

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Armenian PM warns ‘aggressive’ Turkey to stay out of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, says hostilities could spill over regional borders





Yerevan has urged Turkey not to meddle in ongoing hostilities over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, warning that the conflict could spill out over regional borders. Ankara had earlier pledged “full support” to Azerbaijan.

“Turkey’s aggressive behavior is a serious cause for concern,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in a televised address to the nation on Sunday. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously said Azerbaijan, which is involved in heavy border fighting over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh, “is not alone” in the confrontation.

Such a stance “is fraught with catastrophic consequences for the South Caucasus and adjacent regions,” PM Pashinyan said. The international community should keep Turkey out of the conflict, he added, warning that the situation risked getting out of hand.

The situation could have irreversible consequences, move beyond the borders of the region and threaten international peace and stability.

Pashinyan also accused Baku of declaring “a war on the Armenian people” and blamed the triggering of the current hostilities on Azerbaijan.

Turkey has repeatedly expressed support for its Azeri “brothers.” Erdogan minced no words on Sunday when he called Armenia “the biggest threat to peace and tranquility in the region.” He said the entire Turkish nation was ready to stand by Azerbaijan “with its entire means, as always.” He did not expand on what “means” could be made available to Azerbaijan. Lower-tier Turkish officials shared the sentiment.

Hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out along the Nagorno-Karabakh border earlier today, involving artillery shelling, tank raids, and combat aircraft sorties. Both sides reported civilian casualties, and claimed they inflicted losses on one another. Armenia has declared martial law and a general conscriptio

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Saudi-backed Yemen government and Houthis agree to prisoner swap, UN hopes ceasefire to follow





Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels will exchange more than 1,000 prisoners, a landmark swap in a brutal five-year war. UN officials said that the exchange could pave the way for a ceasefire.

The exchange was agreed on Sunday, after ten days of talks in Switzerland. The Houthis will release 400 people, including 15 Saudis, and the Saudi-backed government will free 681 Houthi fighters, Reuters reported.

Yemen’s civil war has been ongoing since 2014, when the Iranian-aligned Houthis ousted Yemen’s government from power. The war intensified in 2015 when Saudi Arabia – backed by Western powers – intervened on behalf of the ousted government. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, and the Saudi blockading of Yemen’s ports triggered what the Norwegian Refugee Council called a “man-made famine of Biblical proportions.”

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Once completed, the prisoner swap will be the largest single exchange of detainees since 2018. The warring parties agreed then to swap around 15,000 prisoners, but that deal has not been fully implemented, and prisoner exchanges since have been small and unilateral.

The Houthis last year freed 290 prisoners, and Saudi Arabia released 128. Smaller deals have been cut too, with the International Committee of the Red Cross organizing the release of six Saudis earlier this year.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he hoped both sides build on the agreement and work toward a ceasefire. “Our overall aim at the moment is to bring an agreement on what we call a joint declaration which is a national ceasefire to end the war in Yemen. And accompanied by various measures to open up the ports and airports and roads so that people can start to live a little,” he told Reuters.

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Despite Saudi Arabia’s aerial bombing campaign, the conflict has been locked in a military stalemate for years. The capital, Sanaa, remains in Houthi hands, as do most of the country’s population centers. Informal ceasefire

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